Supporters of Gbagbo (left) and Ouattara (right) are going after each other's media outlets. (AP)
In the contested presidential election, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, left, faced challenger Alassane Ouattara. (AFP/ Sia Kambou)

Election in dispute, Ivory Coast bans news broadcasts

New York, December 3, 2010Ivorian authorities should immediately lift a ban imposed Thursday on France-based news broadcasters covering the contested presidential election, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The National Council of Audiovisual Communication (CNCA) ordered the local affiliate of France-based satellite television operator Canal+  to suspend all international news channels offered on subscription-based packages, according to news reports and local journalists. Canal+ Cote d’Ivoire, the local affiliate, complied with the ban, which affected about 10 French-language channels, an employee, Clauvis Zahui, told CPJ.

The decision was disclosed Thursday in a statement read during the evening news program on government-controlled RTI.

The announcement came a few hours after France 24, Africa 24, and other stations broadcast a press conference announcing the official results of Sunday’s contested runoff between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Ouattara.  The results, in which Outtara was declared the winner with 54 percent of the vote, were immediately declared invalid by the Constitutional Court. The court, which certifies the vote, said the results were announced after a legal deadline had passed. The court declared Gbagbo the winner.

“The ban on popular France-based news broadcasters, which have played an important role in covering the election, deprives Ivorians of diverse sources of reliable news,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on the CNCA to lift this ban immediately.”

The national, publicly funded broadcaster RTI aired news and views favorable to the president, according to local journalists, despite January demonstrations by opposition supporters protesting such coverage. The ban did not affect other stations beaming into Ivory Coast from the region such as Dakar-based West Africa Democracy Radio or Gabon-based Radio Africa Numero1, they said.

Earlier this year, Ivorian authorities suspended the satellite broadcasts of France 24 after it reported on security forces’ deadly suppression of opposition demonstrations.